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Full-Text Articles in Legal History

Constitutional Skepticism: A Recovery And Preliminary Evaluation, Louis Michael Seidman Jan 2014

Constitutional Skepticism: A Recovery And Preliminary Evaluation, Louis Michael Seidman

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The aim of this article is to recover and reevaluate the American tradition of constitutional skepticism. Part I consists of a brief history of skepticism running from before the founding to the modern period. My aim here is not to provide anything like a complete description of the historical actors, texts, and events that I discuss. Instead, I link together familiar episodes and arguments that stretch across our history so as to demonstrate that they are part of a common narrative that has been crucial to our self-identity. Part II disentangles the various strands of skeptical argument. I argue that ...


Interpretation And Construction In Altering Rules, Gregory Klass Oct 2012

Interpretation And Construction In Altering Rules, Gregory Klass

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This essay is a response to Ian Ayres's, "Regulating Opt-Out: An Economic Theory of Altering Rules," 121 Yale L.J. 2032 (2012). Ayres identifies an important question: How does the law decide when parties have opted-out of a contractual default? Unfortunately, his article tells only half of the story about such altering rules. Ayres cares about rules designed to instruct parties on how to get the terms that they want. By focusing on such rules he ignores altering rules designed instead to interpret the nonlegal meaning of the parties' acts or agreement. This limited vision is characteristic of economic ...


Chief Justices Marshall And Roberts And The Non-Self-Execution Of Treaties, Carlos Manuel Vázquez May 2012

Chief Justices Marshall And Roberts And The Non-Self-Execution Of Treaties, Carlos Manuel Vázquez

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

This article is a response to David L. Sloss, Executing Foster v. Neilson: The Two-Step Approach to Analyzing Self-Executing Treaties, 53 Harv. Int'l L L.J. 135 (2012).

David Sloss’s article, Executing Foster v. Neilson, is an important contribution to the literature on the judicial enforcement of treaties. The author agrees with much of it, as he agrees with much of Professor Sloss’ other writing on treaties. In particular, the author agrees that the two-step approach to treaty enforcement that Professor Sloss proposes is generally the right approach, and he agrees that the “intent-based” approach to the self-execution ...


The Anti-Empathic Turn, Robin West Jan 2011

The Anti-Empathic Turn, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Justice, according to a broad consensus of our greatest twentieth century judges, requires a particular kind of moral judgment, and that moral judgment requires, among much else, empathy–the ability to understand not just the situation but also the perspective of litigants on warring sides of a lawsuit.

Excellent judging requires empathic excellence. Empathic understanding is, in some measure, an acquired skill as well as, in part, a natural ability. Some people do it well; some, not so well. Again, this has long been understood, and has been long argued, particularly, although not exclusively, by some of our most admired ...


The Interpretation-Construction Distinction, Lawrence B. Solum Jan 2010

The Interpretation-Construction Distinction, Lawrence B. Solum

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The interpretation-construction distinction, which marks the difference between linguistic meaning and legal effect, is much discussed these days. I shall argue that the distinction is both real and fundamental – that it marks a deep difference in two different stages (or moments) in the way that legal and political actors process legal texts. My account of the distinction will not be precisely the same as some others, but I shall argue that it is the correct account and captures the essential insights of its rivals. This Essay aims to mark the distinction clearly!

The basic idea can be explained by distinguishing ...


The Constitution's Political Deficit, Robin West Dec 2006

The Constitution's Political Deficit, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Professor Levinson has wisely called for an extended conversation regarding the possibility and desirability of a new Constitutional Convention, which might be called so as to correct some of the more glaring failings of our current governing document. Chief among those, in his view, are a handful of doctrines that belie our commitment to democratic self-government, such as the two-senators-per-state makeup of the United States Senate and the Electoral College. Perhaps these provisions once had some rhyme or reason to them, but, as Levinson suggests, it is not at all clear that they do now. They assure that our legislative ...


Rethinking Crime Legislation: History And Harshness, Victoria Nourse Jan 2004

Rethinking Crime Legislation: History And Harshness, Victoria Nourse

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

There is a truth about the criminal law that scholars evade as much as they criticize: the criminal law is produced by legislators (rather than the experts). The author states she does not know of any way to make law in a democracy other than through the voters' representatives. And, yet, it is the standard pose of the criminal law scholar to denigrate legislatures and politicians as vindictive, hysterical, or stupid. All of these things may be true but name-calling is a poor substitute for analysis. As in constitutional law, so too in criminal law, it is time to put ...


Reconceptualizing Criminal Law Defenses, Victoria Nourse Jan 2003

Reconceptualizing Criminal Law Defenses, Victoria Nourse

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In 1933, one of the leading theorists of the criminal law, Jerome Michael, wrote openly of the criminal law "as an instrument of the state." Today, criminal law is largely allergic to claims of political theory; commentators obsess about theories of deterrence and retribution, and the technical details of model codes and sentencing grids, but rarely speak of institutional effects or political commitments. In this article, the author aims to change that emphasis and to examine the criminal law as a tool for governance. Her approach is explicitly constructive: it accepts the criminal law that we have, places it in ...


Three Positivisms, Robin West Jan 1998

Three Positivisms, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In this article, I accept and hope to expand upon the conventional consensus view that The Path of the Law is a brief for an Americanized version of Austinian legal positivism and for the "separation" of law and morality that is at its core. I also want to show, however, that the distinctive accomplishment of this Essay is its literary ambiguity: Both its explicit arguments for the positivist separation of law and morality, and the three enduring metaphors Holmes uses to make the case -- (1) the "bad man" from whose perspective we can clearly view the law; (2) the "prophecies ...


Natural Law Ambiguities, Robin West Jan 1993

Natural Law Ambiguities, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

I share with Fred Schauer the relatively unpopular belief that the positivist insistence that we keep separate the legal "is" from the legal "ought" is a logical prerequisite to meaningful legal criticism, and therefore, in the constitutional context, is a logical prerequisite to meaningful criticism of the Constitution. As Schauer argues, despite the modern inclination to associate positivism with conservatism, the positivist "separation thesis," properly understood, facilitates legal criticism and legal reform, not reactionary acquiescence. If we want to improve law, we must resist the urge to see it through the proverbial rose-colored glasses; we must be clear that a ...


The Aspirational Constitution, Robin West Jan 1993

The Aspirational Constitution, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Firmly embedded in every theory of judicial decisionmaking lies an important set of assumptions about the way government is supposed to work. Sometimes these theories about government are made explicit. More often they are not. Moreover, deeply embedded in every theory of government is a theory of human nature. Although these assumptions about human nature generally remain latent within the larger theory, because they provide the underpinnings for our ideas about the way government is supposed to work, they drive our notions about judicial decisionmaking. For example, the theory of government reflected in the United States Constitution reveals what one ...


Law, Literature, And The Celebration Of Authority, Robin West Jan 1989

Law, Literature, And The Celebration Of Authority, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Richard Posner's new book, Law and Literature: A Misunderstood Relation, is a defense of “liberal legalism” against a group of modern critics who have only one thing in common: their use of either particular pieces of literature or literary theory to mount legal critiques. Perhaps for that reason, it is very hard to discern a unified thesis within Posner's book regarding the relationship between law and literature. In part, Posner is complaining about a pollution of literature by its use and abuse in political and legal argument; thus, the “misunderstood relation” to which the title refers. At times ...


Jurisprudence And Gender, Robin West Jan 1988

Jurisprudence And Gender, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

What is a human being? Legal theorists must, perforce, answer this question: jurisprudence, after all, is about human beings. The task has not proven to be divisive. In fact, virtually all modern American legal theorists, like most modern moral and political philosophers, either explicitly or implicitly embrace what I will call the "separation thesis" about what it means to be a human being: a "human being," whatever else he is, is physically separate from all other human beings. I am one human being and you are another, and that distinction between you and me is central to the meaning of ...


The Authoritarian Impulse In Constitutional Law, Robin West Jan 1988

The Authoritarian Impulse In Constitutional Law, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Should there be greater participation by legislators and citizens in constitutional debate, theory, and decision-making? An increasing number of legal theorists from otherwise divergent perspectives have recently argued against what Paul Brest calls the "principle of judicial exclusivity" in our constitutional processes. These theorists contend that because issues of public morality in our culture either are, or tend to become, constitutional issues, all political actors, and most notably legislators and citizens, should consider the constitutional implications of the moral issues of the day. Because constitutional questions are essentially moral questions about how active and responsible citizens should constitute themselves, we ...


Authority, Autonomy, And Choice: The Role Of Consent In The Moral And Political Visions Of Franz Kafka And Richard Posner, Robin West Jan 1985

Authority, Autonomy, And Choice: The Role Of Consent In The Moral And Political Visions Of Franz Kafka And Richard Posner, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In "The Ethical and Political Basis of Wealth Maximization" and two related articles, Professor (now Judge) Richard Posner argues that widely shared pro-autonomy moral values are furthered by wealth-maximizing market transfers, judicial decisions, and legal institutions advocated by members of the "law and economics" school of legal theory. Such transactions, decisions, and institutions are morally attractive, Posner argues, because they support autonomy; wealth-maximizing transfers are those to which all affected parties have given their consent. This Article argues that Posner's attempt to defend wealth-maximization on principles of consent rests on a simplistic and false psychological theory of human motivation ...


Jurisprudence As Narrative: An Aesthetic Analysis Of Modern Legal Theory, Robin West Jan 1985

Jurisprudence As Narrative: An Aesthetic Analysis Of Modern Legal Theory, Robin West

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Recent legal scholarship has engaged in a growing dialogue tying literary criticism to jurisprudence. In this article, Professor Robin West adds her voice by advocating the reading of legal theory as a form of narrative. Drawing from Northrop Frye's “Anatomy of Criticism,” Professor West first details four literary myths that combine contrasting world visions and narrative methods. She then applies Frye's categories to Anglo-American jurisprudential traditions and employs aesthetic principles to analyze influential legal theorists within these traditions. Finally, Professor West argues that recognizing the aesthetic dimension of legal debate frees us to realize our moral ideals.